Tuesday, December 30, 2014

iBooks Free Series-starter E-books Promotion!

iBooks has done it yet again! Just as I recovered from reeling in amazement at their last promo of indie authors – in which I had a taste of the action – they’ve started another multi-genre free series-starter feature and included The Broken World Book One – Children of Another God! I can’t begin to express how much it means to an indie author to see his or her books featured at iBooks, which, in my humble opinion, is the best indie e-book promotor in the world! Go iBooks! We love you! iBooks rocks!

For all of you looking for a great holiday read, you’ll find a wide selection of the best free series-starters at iBooks, so don’t miss out! Grab your free e-books today and discover super series to read in 2015! Thank you iBooks for all the great promotions in 2014, and all those still to come. Thank you Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, for all the support and encouragement. You rock! If you’re an indie author looking for the best place to publish your books, I highly recommend Smashwords.com. Congratulations to all the Smashwords authors who made it into the iBooks feature!

On another note, Demon Lord 9, tentatively titled The Forgotten Lands, is now available on pre-order, and the proposed publication date is June 7, 2015. It might happen sooner, depending on how the writing goes, and I’m hoping it will. This title may also change, subject to what happens in the book, which isn’t finished yet. I have two other books in the works – The Cyber Chronicles 10 and Slave Empire 4, both as yet untitled. I’ll put those on pre-order as well, as soon as I’m comfortable that I’m within striking distance of finishing them. I intend to try to make up for my lack of writing last year – due to illness – and publish at least three new titles in 2015. Lots of adventures still to come!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays!

It’s been an eventful, busy year and I’m looking forward to some relaxation during the upcoming holidays, as I’m sure you are too. This will be my last post for 2014, but readers can expect plenty of new and interesting posts in the New Year.

Today, I thought I’d share three facts about Christmas that you might not know.

Christmas Fact 1

Pagans worshipped trees, sometimes bringing them into their homes and decorating them, and the latter practice was adopted by early Christians.

Christmas Fact 2

Emperors in pre-Christian Rome forced reviled citizens to bring gifts and offerings during the Saturnalia in December, and this evolved into general gift-giving. Later, the Catholic Church adopted the practice, re-rooting it in Saint Nicholas’ alleged gift-giving.

Christmas Fact 3

Santa Claus came into being after Saint Nicholas’ bones were moved from Turkey to Bari, Italy in 1087, where the saint ‘replaced’ the goddess known as Pasqua, who was said to fill children’s stockings with gifts. The cult spread and was adopted by Celtic and German Pagans who worshipped the god Woden – who boasted a long white beard and rode a winged horse through the skies one evening each year. The Catholic Church then adopted the practice too, but changed the gift-giving from 6 December to 25 December.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these facts. Here’s to the best holiday season ever!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Legends and Folklore from Africa

Often called ‘The Cradle of Mankind’, many believe that Africa, my home continent, is the birthplace of mankind. Whether or not this is true, Africa is the source of myriad legends, folklore tales and unbelievable – to most Western minds – beliefs. African folklore includes everything from the origins of the universe and life after death to ancestral spirits, magic and celestial and other beings.

In some African cultures, the Earth is believed to be a goddess who created all living creatures, while other African tribes believe their ancestors live inside the Earth, in homes similar to the ones they lived in before their deaths.

Elephants appear in many African folktales and fables, the latter usually portraying them as wise chiefs who settle disagreements between forest creatures. Elephants are usually depicted as noble, kind and wise. Ghana’s Ashanti people believe that elephants are the spirits of their ancestral chiefs and give dead elephants chiefs’ burials, and Tanzania’s Wachaga folklore says that the first elephant was once a human who was deceived into losing all his limbs other than his right arm, which is now his trunk.

A Southern African tale tells of a girl who became so fat that no man would marry her. Accused of witchcraft, she was exiled. While wandering in the wilderness, she came across an elephant that spoke to her in Zulu. She agreed to stay with him, and he helped her to find food. The girl birthed four human sons, who were the Indhlovu clan’s ancestors.

The Kamba people of Kenya have a tale about how elephants originated. A poor man heard about Ivonya-Ngia, who reportedly fed the poor, and made the long journey to find his mansion. Ivonya-Ngia told his men to give the poor man a hundred cows and a hundred sheep, but the poor man replied that he did not want charity. Instead, he said, he wanted to know the secret to being rich. Ivonya-Ngia gave the poor man a flask of ointment and told him to rub it on his wife’s canine teeth in her upper jaw, wait for them to grow and then sell them. After a few weeks, the teeth started to grow, eventually becoming arm-length tusks. The poor man pulled out his wife’s huge teeth – after some persuasion – and sold them at the market. A few weeks later, his wife’s canine teeth were even bigger than before, but she refused to let her husband pull them out. Her entire body began to grow bigger, and her skin grew thicker and turned grey. Eventually, she went to live in the forest, where she gave birth to a son, who was born an elephant. She went on to have more children, all healthy – and all elephants. According to the story, this is why elephants possess almost human intelligence.

An interesting Yoruba belief that sounds quite New Age to me is that a person’s success depends on what choices he or she made in Heaven before his/her human birth. According to this belief, poor people should be patient, because, if they chose the right life when in Heaven, it will still manifest as earthly wealth.

Many Africans believe that every large tree has at least one spirit, whose voice one can hear if one listens carefully with a knowledge of the spirits’ language. Hence, trees are often revered. When cutting down trees to make boats or drums, for example, drum- and boat-makers try to preserve the tree spirit so that it can protect or bless the object/s made from its wood. A tree in Namibia is reported to eat people, and it’s believed that only a woodpecker can rescue them.

In Central Zaire, dwarf-like beings called Biloko are believed to reside in rainforests, protecting the forest and its inhabitants. Biloko are restless ancestral spirits who have grudges against the living, and are known to bewitch and eat humans.

Then there’s the West African trickster god, Anansi, who is usually depicted as a spider, human or spider-human who tricks humans into performing immoral acts that he gains something from. These tricks usually fail, thus teaching valuable life lessons. For example, one story says that Anansi wanted all the knowledge in the world for himself. He eventually got the knowledge in a pot, which he tried to hide in a tree. When he tried to climb the tree, he kept slipping, so his son eventually asked him why he didn’t tie the pot to his back rather than his front, as that would make climbing easier. Just then, the pot became untied and fell, causing the world’s wisdom to fall out. A flash rainstorm washed the wisdom into a river that fed into the ocean; hence, everyone in the world now has some knowledge. Some stories also depict Anansi as the messenger between the ‘supreme god’, the sky god Nyame, and this world.

Perhaps the East African good spirit called the Malaika is where the ‘devil and angel on your shoulder’ originated – at least, in Africa. Folklore says the Malaika were sent from Heaven to help humans, and they sit on a human’s right shoulder and whisper to them what they should or shouldn’t do.

According to the Akan people of Ghana and Ivory Coast, humans once lived deep inside the Earth. One day, five women, seven men, a dog and a leopard crawled out of a massive hole made by a large worm. They became frantic with terror, but the first man to set foot on the surface, Adu Ogyinae, calmed them and took charge of co-ordination the construction of their first shelters.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I’d love to hear about myths in your home country!

Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Recognise Real Life Assassins

In my fantasy series, The Queen’s Blade, the assassin Blade takes up the trade only because he has to eat. He doesn’t enjoy the work, but doesn’t particularly dislike it either. To him, it’s just a job, and one he’s able to do due to his horrific past.

What motivates real life assassins? What goes through the mind of someone who is able to plan and commit the murder of what is often a complete stranger? Not many assassins are lunatics who are obsessed with the target….

Here are the facts, courtesy of a Secret Service study in which 83 assassins and would-be assassins (over a period of 50 years) were interviewed and analysed.

* Assassins or would-be assassins rarely act on impulse – attempts are usually well planned.
* Less than 50% of assassins have or show signs of mental illness.
* 43% have a history of being delusional.
* A third of assassins value the assassination act more than the target’s identity.
* 0% send death threats. (Some studies, however, show that 4% sent death threats.)
* There doesn’t seem to be a set psychological profile that all assassins fit into. However, there is usually an obvious behavioural pattern.
* 86% are men.
* 77% are white.
* Known assassins’ ages range from 16 to 73.
* Around 50% are single.
* About a third have children.
* Almost 50% had attended college.
* 25% had a full-time job at the time of the assassination or attempt.
* Four fifths have never been arrested for a violent offence.
* 44% have histories of chronic depression.
* 54% have a history of harassment.
* 41% have threatened suicide at some point.
* Almost all the assassins analysed had experienced a recent traumatic event, such as the loss of good health, a job, a spouse or other loved one.


* Most assassins said the reason for their assassination attempt was to gain fame.
* A handful said they wanted political change.
* Only a few had co-conspirators.
* Some wanted to gain attention for a cause.
* Some wanted to get revenge for a perceived wrong.
* Some wanted to end their suffering by being killed during the assassination attempt.
* Some claimed they wanted a ‘special relationship’ with their target.
* A handful said that voices told them to assassinate the target.

So it seems that, like my fictional assassin, Blade, most real life assassins also embark upon assassinations due to trauma in their lives. Traumatic events often change people, and most assassins were once (and still are) ordinary people like you and I who were simply pushed too far – or who perceived themselves to be pushed too far.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What to read after The Cyber Chronicles

If you’ve read The Cyber Chronicles and are looking for another series to lose yourself in, I recommend my space opera series, Slave Empire.

The protagonist, Rayne, shares Sabre’s struggle for freedom… she is the golden child who many wish to slay, prophesised to save a galactic empire.

As with all my series, Book 1 is free!

Alien hunters invade a dying Earth in search of a saviour, and an ancient prophecy predicts a golden child who will save a galactic empire. A mysterious black ship is Rayne’s guide and a masked outlaw known as the Shrike her guardian. Others want to slay her and prevent the prophecy from coming true. In the midst of two great empires’ strife, the Shrike holds the power to save or destroy her.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Favourite Television Programme, from a Writer’s Perspective

Not surprisingly, my favourite TV programme is a sci-fi series, Almost Human. There are many others I prefer, but that’s the best one showing at the moment. While it’s a rather run of the mill crime detective thriller sort of thing, it is set in the future, and the technology is interesting. It’s more character driven than most, and the hero is a handsome, but somewhat damaged and flawed individual. I like damaged heroes! There’s no romance in it, sadly, but there is occasionally some mild flirtation. More importantly, it isn’t rife with gratuitous sex scenes or foul language.

Almost Human revolves around a detective and his android partner, who has a supposed ‘synthetic soul’, which makes him almost human. It has a bit of fairly funny comedy in it, and I haven’t spotted any instances of deus ex machina or illogical, inexplicable technology, or plot holes. I hate plot holes. I tend to shout ‘ah, come on!’ at the TV when I spot those. They’re annoying! So, the writer wrote him or herself into a corner and couldn’t figure out a good way to extricate him/herself. That doesn’t give the writer carte blanche to ‘make it so’ because that’s just ‘the way it is’. Or, worse still, ignore the problem. Put some effort into it, people! TV audiences aren’t morons, and I stop watching shows that irritate me. If I sit after the show wondering how the heck that made any sense at all, I’m not going to annoy myself with more of the same next time that show’s playing.

Almost Human also has believable action scenes. The hero is sometimes beaten up, and he and his android partner save each other from time to time, each having abilities the other lacks. That makes them easier to relate to and sympathise with, making the audience inclined to care about them and root for them. So, hats off to the writers of Almost Human. Good job.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Defending Against Assassins

Just like the wealthy in my The Queen’s Blade fantasy series, one of the first things our ancestors did to protect themselves from assassination was employ armed bodyguards. Bodyguards not only act as a shield, but keep an eye out for any threats, often scouting ahead. Those who hired them had to be careful about who they employed as bodyguards, though, for divided loyalties often led to the bodyguards being the assassins. This method of defence was so effective that assassins began to use stealthier methods like poisoning. This type of assassination, too, was easily avoided by employing food tasters.

Another popular means of defence against assassination is the employment of a body double – someone who pretends to be the potential target in order to draw attention from him or her in high-risk situations, and who looks similar enough to the potential target to be mistaken for him or her.

When firearms and bombs became a more popular method of assassination, one of the first things potential targets did was increase their number of bodyguards. Large public areas where the person was due to appear were also cleared in advance, to make would-be assassins more visible.

At the dawn of the 20th century, armoured vehicles began to be used to transport important people. Today, these vehicles can save one from most small arms fire, and even small bombs and mines. Bullet-proof vests also came into use, worn mostly just for public events.

Another way of defence against possible assassination is to limit access to high-profile people by putting visitors through numerous checks before they’re allowed to see the VIP. Bomb and metal detectors are also widely used in today’s world, as are security cameras in homes and offices.

Some potential targets go as far as to isolate themselves as a way of defence – not a nice way to live, I imagine!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mistakes to Avoid in Book Blurbs

Let’s assume your book cover was eye catching and has encouraged a potential new reader to read your book’s blurb. A good blurb can motivate that reader to purchase your book – or avoid looking at anything with your name on it ever again.

Below are a few mistakes to avoid, which I hope will help you write a great blurb that will draw in new readers.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes
It goes without saying that your book, blurb and all marketing material should be error-free. Yet I still constantly see mistakes in blurbs – the very thing that is intended to entice readers to purchase your book is the same thing that can turn them off it. I certainly wouldn’t waste money on a book for which the blurb contains errors – if the author can’t even edit a few short paragraphs properly, just how many errors will the book itself contain?

Bad formatting
Avoid writing one long paragraph for your blurb. Rather, split your blurb into shorter paragraphs to make it easier and faster to read – unless, of course, the entire blurb is very short.

Spoilers are those nasty little things that tell readers what happens in the story. Sure, you need to tell them a little in order to gain their interest, but, if you tell them how the story ends or other major things that happen in the book, leaving no questions in their minds, they will have no reason to purchase and read said book, will they? I advise giving the overall theme or plot – specifically the conflict – but, as far as possible, leaving out the finer details.

Summarising the book
Summaries are for traditional publishers and agents, not potential new readers, and thus tend to provide far more information than is necessary for a book blurb. In fact, summaries and blurbs are total opposites – summaries are intended to give away the ending so publishers can see if your story has a strong ending, and blurbs are intended to entice readers to read the book in order to find out how it ends. Summaries also often come across as rather ‘blah, blah’ – ‘this happens and then that happens and then…’ and so on. Remember, the purpose of a blurb is not to tell the reader every little thing that happens in your book.

Being vague
There’s often a fine line between giving too much or too little information in a blurb. While it’s inadvisable to give too much information, it is just as bad to not give enough. Readers want to know what to expect from the book, so you need to give them enough information to pique their interest.

Try to keep your book blurb to between 150 and 300 words. Most readers do not have all day to browse for new books and authors, so, if your blurb is too long, they may choose to skip your book and look at another instead.

Too much selling
Yes, the purpose of a blurb is to sell books. However, this should be done by sharing what the story is about (it helps to have an interesting book!), not by creating a sales pitch in the blurb. Avoid using your blurb to tell readers how great the book is, how wonderful and gifted the writer is and so on. The story details should do that.

Giving readers the wrong idea
The blurb is intended to tell readers what to expect from the book. Do not promise something in the blurb that the book does not contain. In other words, if your book has a few science fiction elements, but is mostly fantasy, do not even mention the sci-fi elements in your blurb. It will make readers think the book is science fiction, even if it is listed as fantasy, and they are likely to be disappointed – and readers do not usually purchase other books from authors who have made them feel as if their money was wasted on the purchase.

Weak ending
Your blurb needs to have a strong ending that leaves the reader interested. There’s not much point in starting off well and ending on a boring note, because readers will then be left feeling bored, not interested. It’s also a bad idea to end the blurb with a question – in most cases, the reader already knows the answer will probably be ‘yes’, so the words are wasted and it might even annoy some people.

I hope you find these tips helpful!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healing Magic in Today’s World

Today I bring you a short guest post by fellow fantasy author, Vanessa Finaughty, as part of a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of her new series, Wizard of Ends. Enjoy!

Healing Magic in Today’s World
Guest post by Vanessa Finaughty

Regardless of its nature, magic can and does have potent healing powers, and modern humans are becoming aware of this and following in our ancestors’ footsteps, in a sense.

One example is that young people suffering from hemiplegia have been attending ‘magic camps’ in London, with startling results. Hemiplegia, a condition in which the trunk, arm and leg on the same side of the body becomes paralysed, can be treated by performing magic tricks that improve co-ordination and hand movement. The fact that the treatment is exciting magic rather than painful and/or boring medical treatment encourages the afflicted children to ‘take their medicine’ by continuous practice.

Thanks to these magic camps, many children are able to use their hands for the first time. Now, they cut their own food, dress themselves, tie their own shoelaces and even make their own costumes. It also gives a much-needed confidence boost and some sense of power over their lives, because, the more one practices, the more dexterous one becomes.

It goes to show that, just because something is unconventional, it doesn’t mean it won’t work – now there’s some food for thought!

Download Wizard of Ends, Book 1 for FREE 

Pre-order Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature
Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 13, 2014

Targeted Killing

Wiktionary defines ‘targeted killing’ as: “The intentional killing by a government or its agents of a civilian or ‘unlawful combatant’ who is not in that government’s custody, and who is taking part in an armed conflict or terrorism, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, and is thus regarded by the government as having lost the immunity from being targeted that he or she would otherwise have under the Geneva Conventions.”

The term ‘targeted killing’ is preferred to the word ‘assassination’, because terrorist killings are seen as self-defence, not murder, and self-defence is legal.

Former Federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Abraham Sofaer, says that assassination is considered illegal in the USA because it is generally seen as murder. He further says that self-defence killing in international affairs is pretty much the same as the police killing a domestic criminal in self-defence.

In opposition to the above, on its website, the American Civil Liberties Union states: “The CIA and the military are carrying out an illegal ‘targeted killing’ program in which people far from any battlefield are determined to be enemies of the state and killed without charge or trial. The executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret determinations, based on secret evidence, that individuals meet a secret definition of the enemy.”

It seems just as many people are opposed to this definition as agree with it. Those who argue against this definition say that, while criminals should be brought to justice, targeted killing is not, in fact, justice, particularly in some cases, such as where Israeli citizens are targeted as suspected terrorists simply because of their nationality. The argument is that, if the law is not strictly adhered to in terms of human rights, what is the point of having the law in the first place?

However, it is not only the US that uses targeted killing to fight terrorism – Israel, too, employs this tactic, as do other governments.

Those who oppose targeted killing are also concerned about who meets the criteria to become a target, because this information is not easily available – which is one of the main reasons for the dispute. It’s also unclear what the circumstances must be in order for targeted killing to be considered legal self-defence rather than murder.

I’m unsure of the full facts here, because, as already mentioned, some of them are hard to come by, but I must say that I disagree with killing potentially innocent citizens just because they ‘might be’ terrorists, which is what many believe is happening.

What do you think?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Interview with Vanessa Finaughty, Author of Wizard of Ends

Thank you for joining us on your tour today, Vanessa.

To start off, please tell us a little about your upcoming release, Wizard of Ends.

Wizard of Ends is a fast-paced fantasy novella series. The main character, Lashlor Leaflin, is forced into all sorts of things he would rather have nothing to do with, most of which he believes will kill him. Luckily for the rulers of Ends, he is loyal to his land and will do anything to protect his king and queen.

What made you decide to publish Books 1 and 2 in the same month?

When I came to the end of Book 1, I couldn’t wait to write Book 2. So, instead of beginning my usual editing process, I followed my compulsion and just carried on writing. I’ve always been impatient to publish once a book is complete, so the thought of waiting to release Book 2 when it was already polished was a little too much for me… hence, I decided to publish both books during a month-long virtual book tour to celebrate the release of the series.

What are you doing to market Wizard of Ends?

I planned a month-long virtual book tour in which I’m currently touring via 24 blogs. Readers can find the itinerary here. I comment on all the tour hosts’ posts and thank them for having me on their blogs, and share all the posts via Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Before the tour started, I posted a few sneak peeks on my blog, and announced the book tour about three weeks before it started. I also shared snippets via Twitter and Facebook. I wrote press releases for all the major tour highlights, including the discounts, giveaways and release announcements, and posted them on PRLog. Starting from the day of publication, I will also start submitting Wizard of Ends to a few hundred book listing websites and reviewers. This will be ongoing until I exhaust the list of people who will review, interview, showcase or list authors and our books. Oh, and I also contacted book bloggers and offered them ARCs (advanced reading copies).

Tell us what it takes to organise a virtual book tour.

An endless supply of time, energy and patience! The first thing to consider is how long you want the tour to be. I’m so excited about Wizard of Ends that I felt it deserved a month-long book tour, but, of course, that meant plenty of extra work! I started by creating my invitation to bloggers, in which I listed what I would be offering, and then started putting together a list of bloggers I thought would be a good fit for the tour. I wrote 30 guest posts and character interviews, etc. – before I officially invited anyone to participate. Be sure to set aside time for bloggers who want to interview you as part of the tour. Also before sending out an official invitation, I created promotional images and tour banners. You have to decide what you’re going to give away beforehand too – I chose to discount Book 2 to 99c on the day of publication only (after which it will be $2.99), and give away free copies of some of my other books, along with freebies from other fantasy authors.

There’s so much to enjoy during the Wizard of Ends tour – where can readers find a quick link to an extract?

Which character, across all your books, have you most enjoyed writing about, and why?

Lashlor Leaflin from Wizard of Ends. Because he’s so calm under pressure, and in the face of taunting and unpalatable situations. If everyone had as much self-control as Lashlor, the world would be a much better place!

What is the biggest challenge you face when starting a new book?

Deciding which book to write. Now that I’ve published the start of two series, I need to focus on those two series to avoid disappointing fans. However, besides Legends of Origin and Wizard of Ends, there are at least another twenty stories battling for space in my head. If enough time passes, I’ll lose those stories. It can be frustrating.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block and how did you overcome it?

Not really, no. There are times when I sit at the keyboard and stare at the screen, but that’s due to extreme fatigue, not writer’s block.

Why do you prefer writing fantasy over any other genre?

I don’t have to do any research for fantasy. When you’re writing a story with real world elements, it’s important to get your facts straight, or readers will think you’re a fool, and that means you sometimes have to do research. When writing fantasy, you can make up your own facts. In fact, it’s encouraged. As long as you’re consistent and your ‘invented facts’ are believable, you’re good to go.

How long does it generally take for you to finish writing a book?

It depends. I could write six to eight thousand words a day and still have my evenings free – assuming, of course, I wasn’t working full time. At that rate, a full-length novel would take about two and a half to three and a half months. A novella like Wizard of Ends would take about five to seven weeks. That’s to write the last word, and then the editing and polishing begins.

You work for yourself and your baby daughter is home all day most days. How do you cope with writing and juggling the demands of all your other commitments?

By the skin of my teeth! Honestly, I don’t know how I do it. Some days I feel like I’m going to lose my mind, and other days are a breeze – those are usually the days where I’ve got enough sleep the night before! It helps that my husband looks after our daughter during the day, but, if he needs to go to work, then I take over and work in the hours that evening. My mom takes our daughter for the day once a week too, which helps a lot. As far as possible, I allocate mornings and early afternoons to work, and late afternoons to writing or marketing my books. I fit in doing dishes, vacuuming, mopping floors, shopping, family visits, bathing and eating whenever there’s a gap, and tend to fall asleep on the couch most nights!

Do you have any pets?

We have a cat and three dogs – a German shepherd, a rottweiler and a shepweiler – all of which could more accurately be described as my children.

What’s your favourite flower?

A white lily.

Where can readers purchase Wizard of Ends?

Wizard of Ends, Book 1 will be published at Smashwords on 9 October – this week Thursday. I will also be making Wizard of Ends, Book 2: Dark Creature available on pre-order at Smashwords on the same day – the official release date is 23 October, so readers won’t have long to wait. Shortly thereafter, the books will be available for free download (Book 1) and pre-order (Book 2) from other retailers, including Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

About Vanessa Finaughty

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She’s been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes.

Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Animals… My Favourite Cause

As you may have gleaned from previous blog posts, I’m dead against animal cruelty. Some of my best friends had fur or feathers. They were loyal, loving and helpful, and, in many ways, better than a lot of humans I’ve met. So why is it that so many humans feel nothing for these innocent creatures? They’re marvels of evolution, unique to this planet, and they have feelings too. They communicate with us in so many wordless ways, and dogs help the physically challenged, rescue people from disasters and protect their human families. Cats provide companionship and love to lonely people whose own kind neglects them. Without horses, mankind would have had to haul all its own baggage, which would definitely have slowed exploration and civilisation. These generous beasts allow us to do the most inhumane things to them, and still try to do their best to please us.

Every day, animals are tortured in slaughterhouses and aboard transportation trucks, at sporting events and laboratories and on farms. They’re injected with chemicals, force-fed, shut in dark little enclosures where they can’t even lie down or turn around, starved, beaten, bled to death and have their babies taken away so we can drink their milk. They’re plucked or skinned alive so we can use their feathers and wear their skins… and we call ourselves the more evolved race.

Worst of all are animal testing labs, where puppies, kittens, monkeys and rabbits, to name just a few, are routinely injected with toxic chemicals, or have such substances dripped into their eyes or forced down their throats. All pointless exercises, since we already know these are poisons. It’s done for money, to support an industry that might have had a point a few decades ago, but now continues only on momentum. Farms breed countless puppies and kittens doomed to a short life of torture before being put to death. It’s horrific, and I have to wonder how the people who dish out this torture live with themselves. Clearly, they hate animals, for whatever reason.

I’d like to put an end to all this suffering, so please help me and sign the petitions on these links:

To learn more about these horrific practices, click this link: http://www.peta.org/

Sunday, September 28, 2014

China’s Assassins

The first recorded assassination in Chinese history was that of rich businessman Wang Hai. Apparently Wang got naughty with the wife or daughter of another tribal chief while he was visiting the family. While he slept that night, a guard chopped off his head with an axe, then dismembered his corpse. It’s not known why the assassin killed him, but it’s generally believed that the hit was ordered by the husband/father.

One famous Chinese assassination was performed by Zhuan Zhu, who was in the service of Prince Guang. The assassination is a true reflection of the Chinese assassins’ creed, which states ‘it is honourable to die for people who recognise and appreciate your worth’. Zhuan was grateful for the way the prince treated him and his mother, so decided to do something nice for him: assassinate his cousin, who was king at the time, so the prince could claim the throne. Zhuan went to the effort of studying to be a royal chef, and specialised in the king’s favourite dish: broiled fish. Zhuan hid a tiny sword inside the king’s fish to get the weapon close enough to use, then stabbed him to death. Of course, the royal guards killed the assassin instantly, but his master did become king – quite a famous king, in fact: King Helü, one of the age’s greatest rulers.

Possibly the best-known assassin in Chinese history, Jing Ke, actually failed at the task. Jing clearly didn’t adhere to the assassins’ code like Zhuan, and, for two years, took advantage of the luxuries offered to him by the Prince of Yan, who hoped he would kill the King of Qin. However, when it seemed the State of Yan would fall, he finally devised a plan to assassinate the Qin King. It seemed he suspected he would fail, because, when the prince bade him farewell, he sang ‘I will go on my journey with no return’. To get close to the enemy king, Jing went to Qin’s court under the pretence of delivering a message of surrender. When Jing arrived in the court, he drew a poisoned dagger and grabbed the king’s sleeve, trying to stab him in the chest. The king’s sleeve tore, and the king ended up stabbing Jing to death instead.

There’s a plethora of tales about Chinese assassins, many of which romanticise them and their motives. Most ancient Chinese assassins, however, were very private people, and not many knew their motives or anything personal about them. In fact, even their assassinations and failed attempts were not publicised.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set)

iBooks has done it again, with a month-long international promotion of box set books for only 99c! I love iBooks! I was invited to participate in this promo, and of course I jumped at the chance. I teamed up with emerging fantasy author Vanessa Finaughty to create Doorway to Destiny (A Thirteen-Book Fantasy and Science Fiction Adventure Box Set). It has four of my series starters and the second book in those series: The Queen’s Blade, Demon Lord, The Cyber Chronicles and The Broken World. Vanessa Finaughty contributed two anthologies: Dragon Kin & other fantasy stories and Sorcery & Subterfuge, and her Legends of Origin trilogy. For iBooks readers, the new iOS8 operating system, launched on September 19, comes with the iBooks app pre-bundled.

Around 100 multi-author box sets are being promoted at iBooks between September 18 and October 14, so this is a great time for iBooks readers to load up their iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads with excellent books in a wide range of genres. 40 of the books came from Smashwords.com, the world’s leading indie author publisher and distributer, giving readers a chance to discover exciting books by talented independent authors.

Congratulations to all my fellow authors whose box sets made it into the iBooks promotion! Thank you to Mark Coker, Smashwords and iBooks for being the best in the industry and having the foresight to promote indie authors! I’m blown away time and again by the amazing opportunities they give me and other indie authors. If you’re a new author looking for the best places to publish your books, I highly recommend Smashwords.com and iBooks!

Some other box sets by Smashwords authors include:

California Dreamin' Boxed Set (Four mature YA Romances set in California to Benefit "A Chance for Children") featuring: Melissa Pearl and Anna Cruise
Dark Roses: Eight Best-Selling Authors of Paranormal Romance featuring: Terah Edun, P.T. Michelle, Anthea Sharp, Trisha Leigh, Cameron Jace,  Lola St.Vil,  Erica Cope, Sarra CannonDangerous Lovers featuring: Becca Vincenza, H. D. Gordon, Cambria Hebert, Janelle Stalder, Jamie Magee, A.M. Hargrove
Epic Apocalypse - Apocalyptic Horror Box Set featuring: Mark Tufo, Shawn Chesser, John O'Brien, James N. Cook, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup
From the Ballroom and Beyond, A Limited Edition Nine Book Regency Romance Box Set featuring: Rose Gordon, Ava Stone, Julie Johnstone, Catherine Gayle, Deb Marlowe, Jane Charles, Christi Caldwell, Claudia Dain, Jerrica Knight-Catania
Sassy Seven: Sexy, Stylish, Scintillating Novels from Some of Today’s Top-selling Authors featuring Gemma Halliday, Serena Robar, Eileen Cook, Barbara Ferrer, Robyn Harding, Shannon McKelden, Eileen Rendahl
Natural Born Thrillers: 11 Electrifying Thriller Novels from 11 Bestselling Authors featuring Jeremy Robinson, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, David Wood, Kane Gilmour, J. Kent Holloway, Sean Ellis, Jon F. Merz, Casey Neumiller, David Sakmyster, Rick Chesler
Intense Anthology - Ten Bestselling Authors, Ten Powerful Alphas, Ten Passionate Novels featuring: Kahlen Aymes, Sandi Lynn, Aleatha Romig, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, S. E. Lund, Julie Richman, Penelope Ward, Kailin Gow, Liv Morris, J.L. Mac
Playing for Passion: A Limited Edition Collection of Bestselling Sports Romances featuring: Carly Phillips, Toni Aleo, Chelle Bliss, V.K. Sykes,  Pamela Aares, Allie K Adams, Jami Davenport, Catherine Gayle, Mindy Klasky, Roz Lee, Dakota Madison, Bianca Sommerland

About Smashwords 
Launched in 2008, Smashwords is an e-book publishing and distribution platform serving authors, publishers, readers and retailers. Smashwords makes it free and easy for any author or publisher, anywhere in the world, to instantly publish and distribute a multi-format e-book.  Smashwords puts authors and publishers in full control over the pricing, sampling and distribution of their works. Authors and publishers receive up to 85 per cent of the net proceeds from sales of their works. Smashwords has distribution relationships with leading online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, and leading mobile e-reading apps such as Stanza, Kobo, Aldiko, FBReader and Word-Player, spanning all major mobile platforms including Android and iPhone.  Smashwords is based in Los Gatos, California, and can be reached on the web at http://www.smashwords.com/. Visit the official Smashwords blog at http://blog.smashwords.com/.

Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’. Her passion for the written word started her career as an editor and copywriter, and she part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years. She's been writing ever since she learnt how, has always been an avid reader, and currently lives on coffee and cigarettes. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Assassins in Disguise

Most famous assassins haven’t bothered with disguises, but the ones who did are perhaps the most interesting to learn about.

For instance, in 2013, a group of Mexicans dressed as clowns assassinated Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a member of the Arellano Felix drug cartel family. While he was attending a children’s birthday party, the ‘clowns’ shot him, once in the thorax and once in the head.

Often called a terrorist rather than an assassin, Carlos the Jackal, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was a killer for hire. Trained in guerrilla warfare, weapons and sabotage, Carlos also gathered information on people he felt were worth kidnapping or assassinating. He was a bold, merciless killer, often walking into a place, shooting or throwing a grenade, then calmly walking out again. It might be surprising that it took so long for authorities to catch him, but then, he was known as a master of disguise and used fake documentation to authenticate each disguise. It’s thought that, due to this, many murders he didn’t commit were blamed on him. In 1985, he was so famous that no one would hire him, and was finally apprehended in 1994. Responsible for the deaths of more than 80 people, in 1997 he was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1973, ETA – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom – operators posed as sculpture students and rented an apartment along Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco’s driving route. From the apartment, they dug a tunnel across the road that Blanco travelled weekly. That done, they filled the tunnel with explosives and, on the day, disguised themselves as electricians, waited for Blanco’s car to pass by, and detonated the explosives, killing Blanco. It just goes to show that disguises don’t need to be complicated – as long as you don’t look out of place or suspicious, any old uniform will do, and people tend to not notice the face behind the uniform.

Perhaps the easiest – and most devious – disguise was that of Bolivian painter Benjamin Mendoza Flores. In 1970, Flores disguised himself as a priest and stabbed Pope Paul VI at the airport. Though the pope was badly hurt, he survived the attack.

Potential victims, too, can effectively use disguises, as President Lincoln has shown. In 1860, on his way to be inaugurated, a close friend uncovered an assassination plot against Lincoln, so he disguised himself as a frail old woman, complete with a dress, shawl and walking cane, thus foiling the assassination plot.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Interview with S.L. Eaves

Interviewer: TZPP Intern Andy Kubai   

As part of The Endangered blog tour, I’m pleased to share an interview with author S.L. Eaves, whose vampires vs. werewolves novel, The Endangered, was published in September.

When writing in crossed over genres, how do you balance the elements of your story between horror and fantasy, or do you feel the need to do so?

I think some balance is good, but I feel it’s less about balance and more about how effectively and creatively you incorporate elements of each genre. When you’re working within one genre and infusing aspects of another, a lot of the cross over happens naturally during the writing process.

When I started writing The Endangered, my goal was to write a vampire story that I’d want to read. While I love horror and fantasy, I’m also really into crime fiction and a sucker for a good mystery, so ultimately I set out to blend influences and it opens up so many possibilities. As far as the story goes, the need to balance all the components definitely came into play.

Vampires and werewolves both have any number of established rules and variations. When writing The Endangered, did you ascribe to a particular set of guidelines or make your own?

Yes, for sure. I tried to stick to the conventions described in traditional mythology and folklore; those the audience has come to expect. However, there are so many tropes associated with vampires and werewolves that, if you don’t create rules, your characters basically become invincible, and readers are less invested because there is nothing that they can’t overcome.

I made an effort to establish certain parameters, limitations so to speak, on their abilities. I wanted to make it clear to readers that these characters had vulnerabilities and felt it important to be consistent when exploiting any strength or weakness of a particular character.

How do you stay focussed on your world when writing a longer work like a novel?

It’s a lot about the mindset, I think. I only write when I have something to say; if it becomes a chore or anything less than inspired, I have trouble focussing and the quality of the writing suffers.

I also wrestle with the storylines in my head for a while before I feel confident putting it on paper, so when I sit down to write I’m at the point where it’s on my mind so much it’s practically irritating me and I have to write it to purge it from my head and move forward.

I also listen to music constantly when I write. I find it helps me stay immersed in the world of the story.

How do you evolve your characters and do they have minds of their own, so to speak?

When I write a character, I try to think ‘What would [such and such] do in this situation? How would they handle conflict, approach situations, etc.?’ And I would often write them in each other’s shoes and see what reaction worked best for the story. Like ‘hey, maybe this character should not be the one to discover this, because his reaction wouldn’t work for the plot.’ That sort of thing, so yes, I feel they have minds of their own.

In the case of this story, it was initially much more action driven and my focus was on the plot and not the characters or their interactions. When I realised the characters were more evolved in my head than what had made it into the manuscript, I made an effort to develop them further, because you want readers to care what happens to them. That is essential. But also the most challenging part. In writing, it is much easier to write what a character does than how a character feels. At least, that’s my experience.

In The Endangered, who was your favourite character to write and why?

Quinn. She is cunning and enigmatic and crazy. I based her off of Harley Quinn from Batman. She was fun to write.

As a reader or a writer, what makes a story really pop for you?

Unpredictability. As a reader, if you think you know what is going to happen next or how it ends, it is way less enthralling and immersive.

As a writer, the desire to achieve this caused some serious inner turmoil. I had to do what I thought was right to move the story forward in a captivating way to give it that ‘pop’. And that resulted in some hard decisions.

After writing The Endangered, would you like to work in this world some more or are you off to build other worlds?

I would. I think there is a lot more to explore. And I am working on a follow up.
I have also been working on a character-driven story set in more of a real world environment, no elements of science fiction or fantasy, but geared towards exposing a different sort of urban underbelly.

What would you tell other aspiring authors about the publishing process?

Don’t write with the goal in mind of getting published. Write what you love (cliché, I know) and others will recognise the passion behind your words and feel inspired to bring it to the public. You approach it like a job and your writing will suffer.

What is your favourite werewolf movie; favourite vampire flick?

That’s a tough one. For werewolf I’m going to go with Dog Soldiers because of the film’s depiction of wolves: the transformation and the upright stance is how I envisioned werewolves when writing.

For vampire, I’d say Interview with the Vampire because it does a great job of telling a story, establishing a world and making you care about the characters. I think it was a commendable adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel.

About the author:

Presently, Stephanie L. Eaves is a graduate student at Drexel University, pursuing her MBA. She received my undergraduate degree in Film from University of Pittsburgh. Originally from West Chester, PA, she lived in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis before returning to the Philadelphia area, where she currently resides. Stephanie’s professional background is in marketing, primarily in media and publishing industries. She sort of fell into marketing when she got tired of per diems on film sets and wanted a steady gig. She enjoys being in an environment that promotes creativity.

Stephanie loves to write. She’s taken a number of writing courses with a focus on crime fiction and earned a certificate in Professional Writing while attending Pitt. She’s also really into fitness, especially running and biking in her free time. While she readily confesses to being bit of a film and television junkie, music has always been a huge influence in nearly every aspect of her life and there’s nothing like a good live band.

When home, she’s never without a book in arm’s reach.

Connect with the author:

Goodreads (author page)
Goodreads (the book)